Dining out vs Cooking in

Do you know the national average monthly food budget?…I didn’t…and let me just say…WOW! Turns out the national average monthly food cost for 2 people on a MODERATE BUDGET is $595.70!!! with about 7.5% being used for groceries. So lets talk about that little %2.5. Dining out at restaurants is sometimes delicious, mostly fun and always easy and convenient but is it worth it?  This brings us to our topic of the day…Eating out at restaurants vs Cooking and eating at home. Heres how this is going to work…I’m going to start with my Menu for this week, give you the cost per meal (portion # included) then I am going to try and compare that to a menu of the same food (or as close as I can find) with cost per meal (portion # included) as well. This should get interesting.

Menu 6/27 – 7/05

Wednesday: Pollo Asado, Black Beans, Rice, Salsa, Tostones

Thursday: Tuna Melts (on healthy whole wheat bread), Potato and Lemon Salad, Roasted Tomatoes.

Friday: Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Homemade Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Black olives

Monday: Chicken Quesadillas, with caramelized onions and Salsa

Tuesday: Leftovers

OK onto MY Menu Cost breakdown

Pollo Asado, Black Beans, Rice, Salsa, Tostones = $7.19 for 4 Servings

Tuna Melts, Potato and Lemon Salad, and Roasted tomatoes with Sage =  10.21 for 6 servings

Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli = 6.72 for 2 servings

So upon calculating the first 3 I’ve realized this really takes forever, so I’m going to stop at 3 because with these I can show you price comparisons with the 3 basic types of restaurants, Fast Food, Fast Casual, and Casual Dining. Just in case these terms confuse you heres what they mean

Fast food: Fast food restaurants emphasize speed of service. Operations range from small-scale street vendors with carts to mega-corporations like McDonald’s. Also known as a QSR or Quick Serve Restaurant.

Fast Casual:  Fast casual restaurants usually do not offer full table service, but may offer non-disposable plates and cutlery. The quality of food and prices tend to be higher than those of a conventional fast food restaurant but may be lower than casual dining

Casual: A casual dining restaurant is a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere. Except for buffet-style restaurants, casual dining restaurants typically provide table service. Casual dining comprises a market segment between fast food establishments and fine dining restaurants. Casual dining restaurants often have a full bar with separate bar staff, a larger beer menu and a limited wine menu. They are frequently, but not necessarily, part of a wider chain, particularly in the United States.

These are the 3 most common types of Restaurants in the US.

Pollo Asado Meal
(Fast Casual Dining) Pollo Tropical: Is South Floridian Favorite. It is a fast casual type restaurant, much like chipotle where you get in line and order, then sit down and they bring you your food. It is also the restaurant upon which I base my Pollo Asado Recipe 🙂
Chicken family Meal – 10.99 for 4 servings of chicken and 4 rolls, sides are 2.50 each. So adding a side for each of mine (minus the salsa cuz that is free at pollo) = 15.99 for 4 servings

Tuna Melt Meal
(Fast Food) Subway: Now I love subway every once and a while…a chicken bacon ranch sandwich when you are craving one really hits the spot but TUNA is a WHOLE other ball game you willing to sacrifice quality and risk your health by partaking in a tuna sandwich from subway just for the convenience of not having to MIX up the 5 ingredients yourself? ..ugh just thinking about fish + mayo sitting out at just below room temp for hours grosses me out.
1 footlong Tuna sub = 6.25 with no sides. So I will wager that 1 foot long equals about 2 to 3 melts. depending on the size of bread you use. Mine will fall more toward the 3. Still you do the math, for you to purchase a complete meal from subway including chips and a drink is an extra 2.25. to purchase the same amount of sides and drink with your “3” tuna melt servings would be 6.25+6.75= $13.00 for less than half as much food.

Turkey Meatloaf Meal
(Casual Dining) Marie Callender’s: Now I have never personally eaten at this restaurant, but they are HUGE in California, and apparently they are pretty good. Here’s the thing though, I can understand paying for HIGH quality food, and amazing atmosphere. But when a restaurant is reviewed as an expensive IHOP is not really a place I can see paying $30.00  or more for 2 people.
The price of their meatloaf, mashed potatoes and Veggies = $15.29 for 1 serving.

Hopefully, you understand what I’m talking about here. I’m not against going out to eat, in fact Beth and I save a specific part of our budget to allow us to go out to eat once on the weekends. We set aside $30 a week, which we can use to either go out to get something cheap-ish like subway or In and Out 2 times, or something more expensive like marie callender’s or Jack’s Urban Eats once. Once that money is gone, we do not go out again, until we refill that part of the budget. It helps us save money by limiting ourselves. Because lets face it, it is nearly impossible to say “NO MORE EATING OUT” there are stressful days where no one feels like cooking, and days when you just simply don’t have time and THATS OK! Just try to plan ahead for them, and set modest goals for yourself. When we decided it was time to cut back on eating at restaurants we were going out to eat somewhere 4-5 nights a week. So Beth and I started out cutting it back to $60 for going out weekly, for about 3 or 4 months before we cut it down to $30 a week. Hopefully one day we will cut it back to $15 a week (or $30 every 2 weeks). I am still new to this whole concept of Budgeting food, but I believe budgeting in all senses is a learning process, so I am learning as I go!

What tips and tricks do you use to help keep your food budget low?

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Wonderful Wednesdays Recipe! Pollo Mojo (Cuban Grilled Chicken) and sides

If you know me at all you know I am white…in fact I am about as white as they come. Despite the unfortunate lack of ethnic diversity in my heritage, I am OBSESSED with all things ethnic when it comes to food. One cuisine in particular strikes a chord in my heart, bringing back memories of adolescence spent in South Florida. That cuisine is Cuban! I am in love with cuban food, and I am convinced I could eat it every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. My mother (who is also VERY white…) is an excellent Cuban Chef. She grew up in Ft Lauderdale (which is just north of Miami for you non floridians) where she learned to love cuban food, and then she learned the cuisine while living in miami (also known as N. Cuba for you non floridians) with my dad. For as long as I can remember we have had Cuban meals cooked by my mom or dad at least a few times a month. Cuban products are very common in the local grocery stores of South and Central Florida, Mojo Creojo (marinating sauce) can be found just about anywhere as well as, fresh plantains, and guava paste. So I just naturally assumed I would find in any grocery store anywhere in the country. When I moved to California, I quickly discovered I was wrong :(. When I asked a Safeway clerk one day if they had any Mojo Creojo he looked at me like I was from mars…and promptly mispronounced it as he questioned me. Well no, Safeway does not carry Mojo, neither does Sprouts, Trader Joes, Savemart, or Grocery Outlet. So I decided I would just have to make my own…One of the key ingredients to this sauce however is Sour Orange Juice, also a product not found in Northern California. So long story short This is my adaptation based on the ingredients available to me here in California. So without Further ado…Heres the recipe

Pollo Mojo and Sides

Alright so first things first you need to get the marinade started for the chicken heres what you will need

1/2 Onion Sliced thin
3 Limes
4 Cloves of garlic Smashed (I just beat them with the side of the knife a few times…but be sure to remove the skins)
1 handful of cilantro
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Alright so get the onions and garlic in a bowl or ziplock, juice the limes and then throw the pieces of juiced lime in there too.
Chop the cilantro and it to your marinade, which should be smelling AWESOME by now.

Add your chicken and then pour in your olive oil, and give everything a good mix. Make sure if your using a bowl or pan, that the chicken ends up at the bottom, resting in the juice mixture, and with the onion and garlic on top.

Now cover that and whack it in the fridge.

Next you wanna get your rice and beans going, I’m not going to go into great depths with this one because really its not possible. Just toss a can of black beans into a pot with 2 bay leaves (if your beans are slightly dry and sticky add about 1/2 – 1 cup of water to allow time for the bay leaves to flavor the sauce.) allow to just barely simmer until your ready to serve (if they get to dry at any point, just add more water. You want them to have a nice smooth syrup but not be soup.) Start your rice

Next Prep the Salsa

2 roma tomatoes Diced Small (I like roma tomatoes because to me, they taste the most like tomatoes should)
1/4 Onion diced very Small
1 handful Cilantro Minced
1/2 Lime juiced
Salt (and pepper if you like)

Mix those all up and whack it in the fridge.

On to the Tostones: Brief explanation of what those beautiful golden discs are. Tostones are a product of the Plantain in green form, they are starchy and delicious and very much like a sticky potato unless fried. When fried they become like a cross between a french fry and a corn chip. Delicious. Green Plantains can be fried in a variety of ways, thin sliced and fried to golden brown, cubed and fried like hash browns or my personal favorite (the tostones way) fried once in a very thick disk flattened and fried again to brown and crispy. Mmmmm….

So take your plantain which looks like this…(a giant green banana)

and cut the ends off, then Score the skin down 3 to 4 sides (I should have taken a picture to show you but I forgot…sorry) then peel the skin off working your fingers between the skin and the flesh down your cut marks and it should pop off.

Once you get the skin off cut them into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. Like this…

Using a Medium NON STICK Saute pan put enough oil (I use half olive oil and half vegetable oil) to cover about 1/4 of the plantains. Turn it onto High Heat. When the oil is hot enough put a tester in, the oil should bubble considerably around the sides of the plantain. Put the plantains in flat side down. Flip them after about a minute, and let them cook another minute. Then remove them from the pan. Lay them on the cutting board and allow them to cool for about 1 minute.

Using a small heavy saute pan or flat bottomed object, take 1 plantain disk and smoosh the heck out of it…ok ok not really just apply a light amount of pressure until you feel it flatten (don’t go crazy you still want them to be about 1/8th of an inch thick)

After you have them ALL smooshed! Set them aside and cover with plastic or aluminum foil to keep them slightly warm.

Last but DEFINITELY not least. Take your chicken out of the fridge!

Fire up that grill and cook em!

I used high heat to start and got some nice caramelization on the chicken then cooked them through on medium flipping about once every 2 -3 minutes (I don’t like charred chicken)

After your chicken is done fry up those tostones real quick using the same method you did for the first fry just try to get them golden brown.

Then EAT! I’m pretty sure the traditional cuban style is to just mix the beans and the rice together, but I usually mix everything together then put it on top of the tostones and eat them like little nachos…how very un-cuban of me lol.

So thats pretty much it, I know this one was a little more complicated than my previous recipes but don’t let that stop you! I promise its worth the extra trouble! and be sure to let me know if you try it! Oh and check back with me tomorrow for my menu update and budget friendly tips!

Tips on Budget friendly dates! and Summer Corn Soup Recipe

Happy friday! I am so excited its finally friday, tonight is DATE night for me and Beth!

Growing up with the parents I had, date night is a very normal concept for me. My parents went out weekly every thursday night come hell or high water they went out to dinner. I grew up thinking every couple does this, its just what you do when your married. Haha little did I know, this is a foreign concept to many people. So I will say my 2 cents on why I believe date night is important, and then get to the list of cheap date ideas!

My two cents on marrital dating. It is probably the single most important weekly thing you can do with your spouse or significant other. I think its ridiculous that couples either with children or especially without don’t go out on dates on at least a weekly basis. We spend all this time “dating” and getting to know our potential mate, and then get married and decide “oh I know everything I need to know about you now, nothing new to learn here” suddenly your interesting spontanious exciting relationship becomes mundane, boring, and ordinary. Why!? because you stopped striving to know each other. Through many talks with my mother I have come to understand one thing, you can live with, be married to, and be in love with the same person for over 25 years and STILL not know everything there is to know about that person or ever fully understand them. So why would you stop trying just because your married and living together, you should be trying even harder now! Yes I know relationships will still ebb and flow, be exciting one season and slightly drab the next, but that doesn’t mean you need to let your interest in your partner cease to exist. So basically all I am saying is for me, in my relationship I view dates as one of the most important parts of our weekly routine. It gives us a chance to catch each other up on anything that was missed in our nightly talks over dinner, and it is an opportunity to get away from the stress of life for a few hours and remember why we are together. It strengthens our bond as friends, and as partners. It lets us laugh together, and come up with funny inside jokes. Its all around just a good idea. So i guess that was more like 2 dollars worth than 2 cents, but you get the idea I hope. I would encourage you couples out there, to keep on dating your significant other, even after marriage, and after children.

Now after I’ve said all this I have to explain a few things about where the inexpensive date push came from. You see we have been having a really difficult time making this a part of our weekly schedule, not for lack of time, but for lack of funds! So after a very long talk about our future together, we have decided to make our friday night dates MANDATORY…lol which means I now have to figure out how we can afford a date every single week, which has actually been super fun. So I have a simple list for you all to check out. Please comment below with your favorite inexpensive date ideas and let me know what you think of ours! Feel free to try them out or make use of any that you think sound fun or interesting. I will include overall date prices for the Sacramento Area, everywhere else is up to you!

I have ours divided into categories

At home:

Game Night        – Free (unless you don’t have any games)
Some great two player games are:
– Scrabble Blink (card game)
– In a Pickle (Card game)
– Zombie Dice (Dice Game)
– Farkle (Dice Game)
– You can also adapt games like apples to apples or cards against humanity into a competition and just               decide between the 2 of you who’s is funnier

Movie and Homemade Pizza                     – Pizza Supplies for us about $5 + $1 redbox movie
This is a great reusable date, not only is it fun to make pizzas with your sig. other but its also fun to do theme movie nights. Make your pizzas to match the place the movie is set, or dress in character or even have a movie marathon. Some movie categories and theme suggestions:
– AFI top 100 Movies (this is a fun ongoing weekly or monthly date, watch 1 or 2 classics until you make it through the list)
– Classic Musicals night  (singin in the rain, Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, Sound of Music, Chicago, All that Jazz and so many more)
– Disney movie night 🙂
– Slasher Movie night (great time of getting closer and closer as you get more and more “freaked out” lol)

Spa Treatment                  – $8 depending on what you buy
sink into a bubble bath for 2 add a glass of wine and finish the night off with a massage for your honey 🙂

Outdoors/Sports:

Hiking:                              – $8 (gas) + $10 (food)
Places to hike in the greater Sacramento Area: The American River (from Sac County all the way up past Placer county there are BEAUTIFUL hiking/walking trails)

Picnic:                              – $10 (food)
In the City of Sacramento we are SPOILED for choices of parks. We usually picnic at Fremont park on P&16th Streets but there are parks EVERYWHERE just pack a few sandwiches and a salad, grab your blanket and your set! This is a fun one to combine with game night, or pack a frisbee or guitar. There is always the option to sit and people watch as well, this is particularly fun in Sacramento because we have A LOT of “interesting” people.

Concerts in the Park        – FREE!!!!
Cesar Chavez Park offers free Concerts in the park every friday for those of you who live in this area.

Silly Tourist Photo Day:      – FREE!!!!
Grab your camera and head out, hit up all those touristy spots that you usually laugh at when you see people taking pictures in front of. Stop and strike a pose, have fun experiencing the city as a tourist and get some AWESOME memories from the day! Added fun, stop in for a coffee at one of the local shops and pretend that your in from out of town and know nothing about coffee or talk in ridiculous accents, BE OBNOXIOUS!

Stores/Shopping:

Thrifting:           – FREE (unless you buy something lol)
Take a camera with you and dress each other up in Obnoxiously ugly clothing.

Garage Saleing      – FREE (Unless you buy something lol)
This is only for you early saturday morning people. Great summer activity, and an excellent way to find quirky little gifts for your love.

Flea Markets      – FREE (Unless you buy something! lol)
Flea markets are fun because you never know what you will find or WHO you will see, seriously every time I go to the flea market I am reminded of the website “People of Wal-mart”.

Restaurants/Places/Day Trips

Sac Comedy Club                   – $16 (2 tickets)
Sacramento Comedy Spot on 20& K Street does an “Up and coming comedian” Show on wednesday nights about once a month plus many other small shows on weeknights. They all average about $8 a ticket

Crocker Art Museum           – FREE (for Bank of America Customers on Eligible dates) $20 (2 tickets)
O & 3rd St Sacto

California State Railroad Museum         – $18 (2 tickets)
I St Old Sacramento
I love the Railroad museum…I just have to say if you haven’t been GO!!!! It is completely worth $9 a ticket!

Drive in Movies
Bradshaw and hwy 50                          – $13 (2 tickets 2 movies)

Library Events                – FREE
I & 9th St. Sacto
check Saclib.org for events!

 

Woooooo ok that list took longer than expected 🙂 So Onto an AWESOME RECIPE!!!

 

Summer Corn Soup

3/4 lb Corn
5 cups Chicken Stock (or veggie stock for vegetarians)
2 stalks Celery
1/2 Onion
1-2 Med Potatoes (I used one small one but that was because thats all I had)
1/2 Cheese (Optional)

Put your stock in a med sauce or soup pan bring to a simmer over med-high heat
here is the brand of stock concentrate that I use

 

Add corn 1/2 lb (about 3/4 of your total for the recipe) (I used frozen), potato, celery and onion. Let them simmer for at least 20 mins until the potato is cooked

SOMEHOW puree the soup I had to get creative for this part. I have 1 SMALL blender so I did it in batches dirtied up another pot but it worked.

Add the rest of the corn and return to a simmer. As soon as it simmers add the cheese and remove from the heat.

Season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of cheese on top. SO GOOD!

Alright So thats it for today! 🙂 Hope you enjoy the recipe and the date ideas! What do you and your significant other like to do on your date nights!?

 

– S.

Menu Time again…already?

Hello all,

Its that time again…Weekly menu time. This week though the goal for me is to make a menu using ONLY the items left in my fridge. What!? I know its crazy but heres the reason.

This past weekend we had some friends in from out of town, we went out to lunch on Sunday and had some unexpected food purchases for dinner sunday night. So, since I’ve spent over my budgeted amount for last week, it cuts into my budget for this week. Now this wouldn’t be a huge problem if I had more than $200 a month in food stamps (yes I said food stamps) to spend on groceries. I don’t, and I can’t get any more until the 3rd of next month, so I have to make the $40 I have left, last through the 3rd. See my problem? So Todays post is going to be all about how to get creative with a limited selection of ingredients, aaaaand also how to keep your meals healthy.

Step 1…Take stock of your fridge and pantry (this is by far my LEAST favorite task of all food related chores) I usually take a piece of paper or notebook and hunker down in front of the fridge, cleaning out the bad food while writing down the amount of useable food we have left.

Now as you guys probably already know I keep my freezer very well stocked with proteins, so that I don’t have to buy chicken and turkey every week. This is particularly helpful in situations like this, because I know that I don’t have to worry about whether or not we have enough meats to make it through 6 dinners. I also keep my pantry fairly well stocked, I ALWAYS have pasta, and almost always have a selection of beans as well. So really this week the only thing I am worried about is Produce and Dairy

So I’ve taken a look at my fridge and I’m going to list its contents to you and then list the menu and I will outline how much ingredient will be used for each recipe does that make sense?

ok Fridge contents…I’m not going to lie, it was a little scary in there, I have been negelecting to clean out my fridge for some time now, it was an adventure.

In my fridge I have:

11 eggs
1 small pack grape tomatoes
1 bunch of celery
1 bag of Fava beans (about 15 pods)
3 heads of broccoli
2 halfs of yellow onion
1 half red onion (see what I mean bad about checking the fridge)
1 red pepper
1/2 lb Bacon
2 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
3/4 lb yogurt
1/2 iceburg lettuce
1 1/2 Bag green Peas frozen
1 1/4 bag Corn frozen
4 or 5 chicken breasts
3/4 lb Ground Turkey
3/4 gallon Whole Milk
1/2 bag of shredded cheese
1 med potato

WE ARE GOLDEN! As long as I time things right to use the stuff that is going bad first, we have PLENTY to make it through the week! YES!

Menu time!

Wednesday: Pasta Salad (1-2 pieces of bacon, 1/4 cucumber, all grape tomatoes, 1-2 stalks of celery, 1 bag fava beans)

Thursday: summer corn soup (3/4 bag corn, 1 slice bacon, 1 med potato, 1/4 red pepper, 2 stalks celery, chicken stock)

Friday: Turkey Mac and Broccoli Salad (1/2 lb turkey, pasta, 1 can beans, canned tomatoes, katchup and spices Broccoli Salad 1 – 1 1/2 heads broccoli, 1 slice bacon, mayo, raisins, honey or sugar)

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday: Homemade Pizza (pizza dough homemade, 1 cup premade tomato sauce, 1/2 bag cheese…hmm might have to buy more, toppings)

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Egg Salad Sandwiches and Salad (Bread, Eggs, Mayo, Onion, Celery, Relish, Lettuce, 1 Roma tomato 1/4 cucumber and dressing).

Bam…Thats how we roll. I hope we can stick to it! 🙂 I will be posting a blog on how that summer corn soup turned out!

Whats on YOUR Menu this week? Post a comment below!  

New Plan same Concept

So heres the thing, while I believe BMI (Body Mass Index) is a crock of bull. I also have a very high BMI and know that I am in fact overweight, and I don’t really want to be that way any more. I’ve tried dieting plans before and so far to no avail but I am willing to give it another shot in addition to taking some supplements to help the natural hormones our bodies produce do their job, specifically Testosterone (which women do produce just in much lower amounts…and for some women…like me, Estrogene takes over the Testosterone and makes it into MORE ESTROGENE…lol which causes your body to retain weight even when dieting and exercising). Plus there are some other factors in my life I am considering, which factor in to this decision to want to get in shape…but I’m not ready to talk about that yet. Anyway so I found this fantastic website https://www.choosemyplate.gov/SuperTracker/default.aspx. This was created by the USDA and therefore it is FREE!!!  This website is awesome, you imput your name, age, height and weight, and set a goal for the amount you want to lose, or if you want to simply maintain your weight. Then BAM it sets you up with a portion plan, gives you lists of good foods (and portion sized equivilents) and sets you up with a basic meal plan.

BUT wait theres more! You can also log on and track your eating habits (so long as you keep up with imputing what you are eating) your weight loss, and your excersize routine. You can even set goals in weight loss, physical activities, food groups (like if you have trouble remembering to eat your vegetables) and Calories. Really this thing is awesome.

So the new plan for Beth and I is not so much different from the old one, and I will still be posting and adding recipes. Because for the most part Beth and I do eat healthy we just don’t eat often enough. We are notorious for getting distracted during the day and forgetting to eat more than once throughout the morning and afternoon, so by the time dinner rolls around we over eat. So our plan is to start by adding 2 days of excersise, and eating 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day. So far this is what the menu looks like

Meal Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast6:30 B7:30 S Yogurt, Granola, Fruit Oatmeal, Fruit, Milk Yogurt, Granola, Fruit, Oatmeal, Fruit, Milk Yogurt, Granola, Milk Pancakes, Fruit, Milk Oatmeal, Fruit, Milk
Snack10:00 B&S Banana, Toast Same Same Same Same Same Same
Lunch1:00 B&S Salad, Chicken, Croutons, Dressing, Fruit, Cheese Sandwich, veggies, Cheese, Fruit Leftover Dinner, Fruit, Cheese Sandwich, Veggies, Cheese, Fruit Salad, Chicken, Croutons, Dressing, Fruit, Cheese Leftover Dinner, Fruit, Cheese
Snack3:00 B&S Veggies, Cheese Same Same Same Same Same Same
Dinner6:00 B&S Fritatta w/ Kale, Tomato and Sausage, toasted bread Taco Salad Mustard Glazed Chicken w/ bok choy and Rice Herb Chicken, veggies, Cous Cous TBD Baked Pasta w/ Ground Turkey & Veggies Homemade Pizza

Breakfast Lunch and Snacks probably wont vary from week to week, I love yogurt and granola, and oatmeal with fruit so I am pretty content to stick with this for at least the first 2 weeks, to ease into things and get the routine down before I try to switch up all three meals. Dinner however will always remain interchangable.

So check out the website, even if your not looking to loose weight, its a great way to check out what portion sizes you should be eating and how many calories a normal day should have. Have fun and let me know if you check it out!

A brief overview of How to make a Menu & ~Recipe! Bruschetta Chicken

I’m going to start this post off with menu making because if I put the recipe first, most of you will probably skip the menu making and go straight to making dinner, because it was that darn good.

Why make a menu, you ask?

whats that? you didn’t ask? well thats ok I’m going to tell you anyway.

1. it keeps cost’s down…that is if you choose the right recipes and stick to your list! Menu’s provide you with an easy way to make a shopping list, just write the ingredients you will need for your dinners, add your staple items (refer to my post yesterday if you don’t know what your staples are) and bam you are done! If you choose dinners that are relatively simple you should have a short (or shortish) list and minimal extra costs!

2. It saves you from the dreaded “Ugh there is nothing to cook in this stupid fridge” feeling. I get this feeling frequently when I haven’t preplanned my week of meals. I look at my fully stocked fridge, and see a mish-moshed pile of ingredients all of which had the best intentions but none of which could be put together to make a meal. Saving you from this feeling is also saving you from the inevitable “Oh lets just eat out” Feeling that comes next, which saves you money.

Now you understand the importance of menu’s now I shall tell you how to make one, my young grasshoppers…

The First step to making a menu is Knowing Your Options:
To do this you need to make a list of things you already know how to make, whether its a handwritten list in a notebook, a box full of recipes, or a computer database, it is important to have your standby’s close at hand.

Next you need to Explore your Interests:
To do this you will need Recipes/styles of cooking/Flavors that Interest you. The interent is chocked full of great resources for budding “chefs” and adventurous cooks. Once you know what your looking for you can visit any number of sites and let your sense of cooking adventure come to life. Some websites you might want to check out are:
the Pioneer Woman Cooks – Hands down the best food blogger on the internet! She is so funny, and her recipes are so delicious!
Tastespotting – This is basically food porn
Food Gawker – This too…
Epicurious – some great recipes on here but also some questionable ones so be careful!
Jamie Oliver – LOVE jamie oliver! Great recipes and healthy as well!
All Recipe – The good the bad and the ugly seach with care!
Use these to find new recipes or new ideas for dinners.

Next you need to Find/make a chart that works for you:
I use a piece of notebook paper with the week date at the top and days of the week listed. but you can use a calendar or dry erase board…MINE usually looks like this:

Menu – 6/6 – 6/12

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday:

Monday:

Tuesday:

Last you need to let your creative juice flow and fill that sucker in!

I try to alternate between standby’s and new recipes, I usually make 1-2 “New” or newish recipes every week. Things I’ve either never made before or only made once or twice. I also always leave at least one day open for leftovers, so that we don’t waste food. As an added bonus it keeps me from having to cook every single night of the week, which after 3 or 4 days of work and then making dinner its nice to have a break.

Alright now that the learning is out of the way time for the fun part! Here is a delicious recipe for you all to try

Bruschetta Chicken

Image

Servings 2                 Prep time: 30 mins             Cook Time: 15 mins

2 Chicken Breast (I only used one but that sucker was HUGE!)
1 pint Grape or Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
6 leaves Fresh Basil
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice grape tomatoes into bit sized pieces (I sliced the smallish ones in half and the larger ones in quarters.

2. Chiffanod your basil leaves (refer to pictures for example)Image

Image

Image

Place tomatoes and basil in a small to medium sized bowl. Add EQUAL parts Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil to coat Tomatoes. Stir and place in the refridgerator

Image

3. Pound chicken breast to about 1/4 inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper and saute in a hot pan with about 1 TBL of olive oil until cooked through. Try to get as much browning as possible in the beginning then turn the heat down to low or medium to cook the chicken through, it should take 10-15 minutes.

Image

4. To serve spoon the Bruschetta over the chicken, I did about 3 spoonfuls of tomatoes and one spoonful of just the juice at the bottom of the bowl.

To make the bread that I served on the side, Slice french bread in 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices at an angle if you like. Slice one clove of garlic very thinly and saute in a large pan with 2 tbl olive oil on medium heat. Remove garlic slices turn the heat up to high. Add the bread and toast both sides with the garlic oil.

I Served mine with a salad and the garlic toasted bread. it was delicious!

Hope you enjoy, and write me back and let me know how yours turned out!

Cooking for 2 on a budget

Heres the thing, I have a really hard time finding new and interesting recipes for 2 people geared towards keeping your food budget low…its extremely frustrating. I can find plenty of recipes for 2 people at low cost (most are boring, or really unhealthy and don’t involve a lot of fresh veggies), and plenty of interesting (and expensive) recipes for 2 people. but none that incorporate all three.

So what I am going to try to do…(don’t hold me to this, cuz i could totally fail and forget all about this blog again) is share with you at the beginning of my cooking week (which starts on wednesday…because double ad wednesdays at sprouts are the bomb!) my menu for the week, my grocery list and my final cost. I will throughout the week (meaning hopefully at least once) share recipes and total cost for the meal. Hopefully I will have pictures to show for it too!

I am continually surprised at how little information there is on the internet for this type of budgeting because honestly for the food environment that we live in, it is not that expensive to make quality, delicious and adventurous meals for maybe a little more than what you would pay for convenience, and easy meals such as hamburger helper, or stoffers (which I must confess I partake in on the occasion and always feel guilty for about 2 hours later when I am dying for a bathroom) I am particularly blessed in the area that I live, because central california produces LARGE amounts of produce which supply a large amount of the US we have farmers markets and local stores everywhere! Produce here is easy to come by, so hopefully I will be able to keep up this challenge.

One of the keys to my budgeting strategy is making meals that have ingredient overlap, because many ingredients come in packages much too big for 2 people to consume in one meal, so to off set waste, I overlap ingredients as much as possible.

Another big key to my budgeting strategy is leftovers! I HATE leftovers, but a lot of times I will take my leftover meals and make something new out of them. We try really hard to not waste food. Beth takes leftovers for lunch every day like a trouper! and I use whatever is left for dinners midweek and usually again at the end of the week. This also helps me, because there is usually a night after cooking for 2 – 4 nights in a row that I just want a break. So instead of going out and buying something, or getting something at a restaurant we always check the fridge first.

Also I freeze all my meat and anything else I can. I usually buy it fresh because its easier to find on sale, but the wonderful people at ziplock being the geniuses that they are make portion bags (which at first I thought were an unnecessary expense but after using them once I was hooked!) they are so much easier to use than saran wrap! I bag each individual chicken breast and usually 1/2 lb of ground turkey (or beef). then put them in gallon sized ziplock freezer bags. No more having to thaw out an entire bag of chicken to just get 1 or 2 breasts for dinner! its awesome. I also use frozen peas and corn frequently I add them to soups, pastas or casseroles. They keep for a long time and are a great way to add veggies to things when I’m out of fresh produce (which doesn’t happen often but it does happen!)

The only other tip I can give is COUPON! for anything and everything, but don’t buy things you wont use. Beth Coupons for me, I tell her what I’ll use and she finds coupons for it. We use them mostly for dry goods, that way my pantry stays stocked and I don’t spend too much time and money buying bits and bobs for sauces or sides.

So here is the Menu for this week, and the overall cost will come shortly as I have not made it to the store 🙂

Wednesday: Bruschetta Chicken w/ Salad

Thursday: Tomato Basil Pizza w/either Sugar Snap Peas or Brussel Sprouts (I haven’t decided)

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Frittata with Kale, Tomato and Chorizo

Sunday: Turkey Meatloaf w/ Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Kale

Monday: Mustard Glazed Chicken w/ Bok Choy

Tuesday: Leftovers

Shopping List: (I usually categorize because I’m anal like that about food)

Basics: (Things I buy and use every week no matter what)

– Milk (1/2 gallon for us cuz we don’t drink a whole lot of milk)
– coffee creamer (cuz beth can’t drink coffee without it)
– Cheese (cuz we like it)
– Eggs (which I’m actually NOT buying this week because we’re overstocked which is weird)

Vege: the x# is how many recipes its used in this week I don’t go buy measurements I go by eye so you’ll have to figure this one out yourself.

– Tomatoes x3 (usually about 2 per recipe for me)
– Lettuce
– SS Peas or Brussel Sprouts
– Kale x2 (which will probably only be one bunch)
– Bok Choy
– Onion (basic staple so I’ll probably get at least 4)
– Potatoes
– Basil x2
– Green onion (also a staple in my house but one bunch is enough for the whole week)

Meat:

– Ground Turkey
– Chorizo
– Lunch Meat
(don’t need chicken this week)

Bread:

– French Bread (Mini Loaf)

Total Cost:______? my estimation is: $35.00 (that is also my weekly budget so we shall see!) I’m off to the store!

SEVERAL HOURS LATER:

Sooooo my trip waaaaas a bit over budget but its the first shopping trip of the month for me, and I didn’t shop last week so its understandable…plus I got alot more than what was on my list…kinda bad on my part but there was sooo much on sale…i couldn’t help myself. here is the actual purchase list

French Bread $0.99
Coffee Beans 1.81 lb @ $7.99/lb – $14.46 (On Sale)
Coffee Creamer $2.49
Whole Milk $1.89 (On Sale)
Bacon $3.01 (On Sale)
Smoked Keilbasa $4.49 (couldn’t find Chorizo)
Chicken Breast $5.59 (On Sale for 2.99/lb!)
Ground Turkey $5.49
Basil $1.99
Bok Choy 1.70lb @ $0.79/lb – $1.34
Brussels Sprouts 0.89 lb @ $1.99/lb – $1.77 (On Sale)
Cucumbers $0.69 (On Sale)
Grape Tomatoes $1.99 (On Sale)
Romaine Lettuce $0.88
Red Lettuce $0.88
Organic Green Kale (They didn’t have non organic :/) $3.98
Rainier Cherries 1.61lb @ $5.99/lb – $9.64 (I know I know….but I LOOOOOOVE them….I can’t resist Rainier Cherries)
Red Potatoes 1.47 lb @ $0.67/lb – $0.98 (On Sale)
Roma Tomatoes 0.78 lb @ $0.88/lb – $0.69 (On Sale)
Yellow Onions 1.57lb @ $0.67/lb – $1.05 (On Sale)

Total with tax : $64.69

Now yes that does seem like a lot for two people…but with the exception of the greens most of that will also go towards next week. In addition to that if you compare my total for that shopping trip with the totals for similar shopping trip to safeway or raley’s mine is much more cost effective. and I guarantee you my produce will last longer.

thats all for now. Perhaps tomorrow I will post about the bruschetta chicken I am making for dinner tonight.

Well here we are back again.

So its been a long time….I am really bad at blogging…I know.

but heres the deal…I feel inspired to restart this blog…because my lovely wife has started her own blog, and its absolutely fantastic…she is much more faithful than I am, so I’m thinking if she is writing hers it will remind me to write mine. we’ll see how well that goes.

On a side note I have a quick and delicious recipe for you created by me, totally by accident.

Accidental Soup

1-2 pieces Bacon (chopped)
1/2 Onion (diced)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup White wine (whatever you have left over in your fridge will be fine…I used Pinot gris but thats what I almost always use for cooking)
4 Red Potatoes (diced)
1 can white beans (optional)
5 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups Sugar Snap Peas (Cut and “de stringed”)
1/2 cup Green Onion (sliced)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese (grated)

This seems like a lot of things like bacon and cheese but bear in mind this makes 8-10 portions.

1. Saute the bacon and onions in a large soup pot, I didn’t add oil because there is no need with bacon! 🙂

2. Add crushed garlic clove when the onions begin to soften. DO NOT LET THE GARLIC BURN!!! turn down the heat if you need. Let saute for about 30 seconds to mellow out the garlic

3.  deglaze the pan with the white wine, be sure to scrape all that delicious caramelization off the bottom of the pan. reduce by 1/2

4. add the potatoes and saute for about a minute allowing them to start to soak up the wine mixture. Add the white beans at this time if you want them.

5. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

6. simmer until the potatoes begin to soften and add the frozen corn. bring back up to a simmer.

7. simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. take a potato masher or stiff wisk and mash a few good times. The goal is to thicken the soup slightly NOT to mash all the potatoes.

8. add the sugar snap peas, parmesan cheese, and green onions. Turn off the heat, the soup should be hot enough to cook the peas just slightly.

Serve IMMEDIATELY!

seriously this was one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a long time. I love making things out of random bits and bobs of leftover produce from previous recipes 🙂 hope you enjoy and let me know what you think 🙂

Amazing and EASY dinner…winner!

I made the menu for this coming week today…and while making the menu I had a brilliant idea…sparked from my desire to make an asian flavored salad that was not mandarine chicken salad AGAIN…lol so I looked back at the brain archives for my favorite chinese dishes…and found LETTUCE WRAPS! woo!!! and me being me…i figured I’d grab a quick recipe just to get an idea of what to put in them…then come up with my own recipe…much to my dismay…most (in fact ALL) of the recipes were for ground beef (what gives? no ground turkey fans in china apparently) now improvasation in the kitchen is my thing…so I figured eh I’ll just make it work.

So heres what I came up with…

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps:

(about) 1 tbs Sesame Oil (toasted)
1/2 lb Ground Turkey
1/4 to 1/2 Yellow Onion (chopped)
2 cloves Garlic (minced or pressed)
1 large knob (or about 2 tbs) Ginger (Minced)
1 can water Chestnuts (chopped or sliced)
1 good sized Carrot (grated)
2 1/2 tbs Housin Sauce
1 tbs Worschestshire (good luck spelling that…I never can obviously) sauce
1 tbs Rice Wine Vingar (seasoned or unseasoned)
a good dash of soy sauce
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Cilantro (minced) (to taste)

1. Saute onions in sesame oil until soft, add garlic and ginger and saute for about 1 or 2 mins (don’t let the garlic burn)

2. Add ground turkey and saute until ground turkey is almost cooked. Add Housin sauce, W. Sauce, Rice Vinegar, soy Sauce and Water chestnuts

3. Saute until cooked (haha) in other words till the turkey is done and the chestnuts have soaked up some of the sauce. Add carrots and Cilantro (but do not COOK) the carrots are much better raw with that crunchiness left in them.
should look something like this…

then use Large Iceberg (in my case cuz it keeps longer and is less expensive…I know I know mom it has no nutritional value…but that crunch is just sooooo good) as wraps or cups to put the meat into (aka lettuce tacos)

finished product = delicious

I’ll admit I was dubious about eating JUST this for dinner (no sides no salad no starch) but it was delicious and after about 3 lettuce wraps each both Beth and I were stuffed. We had a little leftover but not much…and as with most asian dishes it only gets better with time spent in the fridge marinating! so Heres to a great lunch tomorrow 🙂

also on a side note…I would like to add after only working at this for about 3 weeks now…and with a few work outs thrown in between almost all my pants are falling off…and my “spare tire/muffin top” is dwindling. I haven’t weighed myself because we don’t own a scale but I think we might need to invest in one to catalog this experience…anyway…hope you try this recipe out and enjoy it as much as we did!

Oh I am so bad at blogging…

image

Ok ok…I know what your going to say…I suck at keeping up with this blog…and your right…I do. But I have so busy with like 12 ongoing projects that I just haven’t been keeping up…anyway…so update on this past week’s meals…

last friday I bought some beautiful kale and cabbage from a small local farmers market…I decided with this whole vegetable kick working out pretty well for us…why not kick it up a notch with fresh local produce and green stuff that is basically superfood like kale which happens to be some of the best green stuff you can eat….so anyway beth was apprehensive about the kale (she had never had it before) so I decided to ease her into it by combining it with familiar ingredients. Like pasta…lol the result? A delicious and really low fat dinner. I don’t really know what to call the dish so for now its just “italian sausage with kale over pasta” the recipe is as follows…

1 large bunch of kale (washed and roughly chopped into bite size pieces)
1 or 2 (depending on how much sausage you like) italian chicken sausage
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 can white beans (optional)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Basically I cooked the pasta (I used bowtie) and while that was boiling, took the sausage from the casing and sauteed until almost cooked then added as much kale as I could fit in the pan lol…cooked till slightly wilted. Then added the tomatoes, beans, garlic and oregano and cooked until the garlic mellowed out…about 5 mins. Then dished up the pasta and served the sauce on top with a touch of Parmesan cheese. Super delicious.

And beth is now a kale LOVER…way to go me!